Ten Steps Plus One Year

It’s been a year since I first visited Barrett Veterinary and started on my ten steps to healing. Considering my multiple health issues, my age, and that one year is like seven for a dog, I’d say I’ve done pretty well. And by pretty well I mean still on the top side of the grass.09 Logan - 10Steps- topside

The problem is that the same 10-step program that, a year ago, got me out in the field doing 1-hour walks, now just gets me to the barn and back, and our barn isn’t far from the house. It didn’t happen all at once, of course, it’s been gradual. My 1-hour walks became 45 minutes, then 40, then 30, then 20, and so on. It’s hard to believe I was still walking a mile every morning when we first came home from Arizona in March. When I look south to the neighbours’ place now, a half a mile away, it seems a formidable journey.

These days I go out to the barn to help with chores once or twice a day and make the trek to the end of the driveway with Nollind to close the gate at night, even if the gate is already closed. I like the routine, and I like to feel included in the happenings of the farm, like I still have a job.09 Logan - 10Steps- stalled

Helping with the herd used to be my thing. I’d rush right in to assist when Teresa was moving horses around. These days I hang back, far back. My Border Collie herding instinct still says, “Get in there,” but my survival instinct says “Are you nuts?” I swear those horses are a lot bigger than they used to be, or maybe I’m smaller.

My life is definitely a lot different than it was a few years ago, even a year ago, but it’s still life, and it’s still good most days. I enjoy different things at a different pace. I always did like lying on the deck or in the yard watching the world go by, so that hasn’t changed. What has changed is that I just let it go by, the world, rather than chasing after it.09 Logan - 10Steps- yardtime

I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be here. Walking is getting tougher, the Legend isn’t helping much anymore, and some days it’s a challenge just to get up off my bed. Teresa got me some supplements that help settle my nighttime restlessness and my medications have been adjusted to levels that seem to keep me going as best they can but, when I look at my condition compared to a year ago, I know I don’t have another one in me. There’s only so much sliding downhill that can happen before the toboggan reaches the bottom and stops moving.

But, until then, I’ll be here, keeping the troops entertained. I figure as long as I have a skip in my step (in addition to a limp) and a light in my eye, I’ll be bargaining for a few more days.09 Logan - 10Steps- fieldwalk

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Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

I used to enjoy the end of the day, the prairie or desert sky coloured by the dying sun, going for a walk in stealth mode in my black coat. But that was before … before the dark became scary.

A few years back, Teresa and Nollind moved their bedroom downstairs and we loved it, Chico and I, because we had our own couch right there in the bedroom with our peeps. The pack could sleep together and still have plenty of space each.

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Our futon couch in the downstairs bedroom. Canine cushiness.

Then, one night when the light went out, I just couldn’t stay in the room. I slept outside the bedroom door where there was a night light. It became a bit of a joke. They’d turn out the light and say, “Bye, Logan,” because they knew I’d leave. Teresa made me a bed between the door and the basement stairs and I’d sleep there, or go upstairs sometimes, where there were more night lights.

Last fall, the night lights weren’t doing it. I was pretty much sleeping on the main floor by then, because the stairs were a challenge, and I started getting nervous at bedtime. Some nights I was able to tuck in and go to sleep, others I’d pace, back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. They tried taking me downstairs with them but that was even worse.

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Looks so easy.

When we set out on the road in December I found being in the more confined space of Sid quite comforting and I slept great for the first month. I had my couch and my pillow, and my peeps sleeping just twenty or so feet away. Then, one night, I just needed to get out of there. I went to the door, banged into it to get someone’s attention. Nothing. I went back to my couch and tried to settle. Nope. Back to the door. Bang. Back to the couch. Repeat.

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RV time was a great remedy for my nighttime restlessness … for awhile.

It didn’t happen every night, the restlessness, but often enough that Teresa and Nollind started putting a chair in the way so that I couldn’t bang into the screen door and wake them up. When I figured out how to get in behind it, they put a second chair beside the first. When they started leaving a light on for me it seemed to help for a time but then it didn’t. I was back wandering the trailer and, by the end of the trip, it was almost every night.

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Someone to keep me company is helpful when the “evening crazies” set in.

I hoped, and I’m sure Teresa the light sleeper did too, that I’d settle in once we were home again. Uh-uh. It was worse at home. So much space, so many shadows, so many now unfamiliar noises. I was a wreck that first week. I’ve always been kind of a nervous guy but this was exceptional, even for me. The vet was consulted, and she thought it might be something called Sundowners, a syndrome that affects people with dementia and old dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (a fancy way to say senility). I tell you, it was not a good day when I heard my mind could be going down the same degenerative road as my body.

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I can sleep almost anywhere during the daylight hours.

I was prescribed something called Selegiline, a human Parkinson’s medication that helps some dogs with cognitive issues. We were told it might or might not help and we’d know in a month or two if it was working. After only one dose, my nighttime restlessness increased, after two, the restlessness was spreading into the daytime hours, and the third had me vomiting. Teresa did some online research and found that Selegiline shouldn’t be given with Tramadol, a pain med prescribed by the vet down in Arizona. It could cause confusion, increased restlessness, and, you can probably guess, vomiting. I hit the trifecta of potential side effects. Teresa tried to take me off the Tramadol but I got too sore on my right leg so the Selegiline trial was abandoned. I doubt it would have helped anyway, since I’m a far cry from senile. I’m just sensitive, and getting more so with age.

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Daytime naps are the best.

This all happened when we first returned home in mid-March and things have improved since then. The vet increased my dose of Gabapentin, a drug for my arthritis that also has a calming effect, and I now take it right at bedtime along with some melatonin. It doesn’t work every night, but things are much better than they were.

The ultimate solution would be to let me sleep outside. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but inside where there’s likely not something lurking in the shadows is much scarier than outside, where there could be something lurking in the shadows. I can’t explain why but I calm right down out there. Problem is, it’s been too cold at night for my old bod. I get the shivers in the house overnight if I’m not wearing my fleece jacket. But, as soon as the weather warms up, come bedtime they can just kick me outside in my yard and we can all get a good night’s sleep.

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Love my dog house at any time of day.

So, It Has Come to This

This … started out as needing a boost getting in and out of the truck. It happened when Teresa and Nollind got a new truck that was higher than the old one, so I wrote it off as being just that, a taller truck.

This … is a wooden step being added to the bottom of the fifth wheel stairs. They raised the fifth wheel axle last year, to better match the truck when overnighting without unhitching, so, again, I chalked it up to equipment changes, not aging.

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Partway through last winter in the desert, this … was a small staircase added to the bedroom so I could get up on the bed and, more importantly, have an alternative to jumping down.

This … is the plethora of pills and supplements that I get fed on a regular basis to keep things working. Two medications for my arthritis, three for the heart condition, Legend and Cartrophen injected every couple of weeks, and a joint supplement tablet as big as my foot that I really don’t like the taste of. Hide that in a pill pocket! And then there’s the renal diet. Yes, you read that correctly. A low protein diet, for me, a dyed-in-the-wool meat lover!

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This … is being assisted up and down the basement stairs and being blocked at night from going on my own. How embarrassing.

This … is missing most of the day because I’m sleeping all but a couple of hours.

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This … is being left behind when Teresa goes to town or for a walk and takes Chico along.

This … is not hearing them leave.

This … is having my walks cut to 45 minutes, then 30, and now sometimes just 20. I rarely leave the property anymore.

This … is being lifted out of the fifth wheel (actually carried down the stairs!) during our latest Sid trip.

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This … is words like prognosis and life expectancy popping up in conversations with the vet.

You could say this kinda sucks. But I’m adjusting, it’s what we dogs do, live in the moment, take life as it comes. We don’t dwell on what was, only enjoy what is.

This is just life, this dog’s life, this dog’s getting older, this dog’s journey. So …

This … is a walk around the back forty on a warm, fall day.

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This is playing with my favourite toys (and tiring myself out).

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This is cuddle time with my people on my magnetic therapy mat.

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This is spending time with friends.

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This is a tasty treat (even tastier now that they’ve added an appetite stimulant to my pharmaceutical cocktail).

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This is that rush I get when I stick my head out the car window while driving.

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And best of all, this … is a free pass, a get out of jail free card if you will, a license to do just about anything I please. Want a breath of fresh air at 2 am? Just make a little noise. We old guys can’t hold it like we used to, especially when you give us a diuretic for our heart condition. Best let me out. Feel like some quiet time alone in the yard?  Just give them that look from wherever I’m lying, the one that says, “Are you really going to make me come in? Hard to say how much longer I’ll be able to do this.” Don’t feel like eating dog food? “Gee, my stomach doesn’t feel so good but I could probably force down a bit of that chicken you’re eating.”

As with everything in life, this is all in how you look at it.

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